Here we come and we are sailing...

This Spotlight collection features sailing on screen, from America's Cup classics such as 80s sea shanty Sailing Away, Billy T exploring the inaugural Kiwi Cup challenge in Perth, and Dennis Conner’s Holmes walkout. Then tack away to the 1974 doco on NZ sailing identity Geoff Stagg, a Sam Neill-directed Cook Strait windsurfing mission, and a 1990 doco on Sir Peter Blake.

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Sailing Away

Music Video, 1986 (Pop)

In this video billowing sails and an impressive array of mid-80s celebrities (musicians, broadcasters, sportspeople) raise their voices in patriotic fervour, to rally support for the first Kiwi challenge for the America’s Cup: “in a boat just called New Zealand”. The bid failed, but ‘Sailing Away’ set a record for the most consecutive weeks at number one by a NZ artist (nine), until the arrival of Smashproof’s ‘Brother’ in 2009. The tune — borrowed from ‘Pokarekare Ana’ — remains both as a reminder of simpler times in the America’s Cup, and an era of questionable haircuts.

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Billy T James America's Cup Challenge

Television, 1986 (Documentary, Comedy)

Comedian Billy T James presents an introduction to The America’s Cup as Team New Zealand challenges for The Auld Mug for the first time. Billy T visits Fremantle in Western Australia — where the Cup is being contested — and meets members of the NZ team including skipper Chris Dickson and backer Michael Fay. Rules and strategy are explained and there’s occasional product placement for sponsor Sony. Billy’s sense of humour is never too far away but this is a largely-factual exercise from a time before The America’s Cup was (briefly) “New Zealand’s Cup”.

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The Hum

Short Film, 1974 (Sport, Documentary)

The Hum is about sailing legend Geoff Stagg, and his yacht Whispers. Directed by Tony Williams and written by Martyn Sanderson, the doco is a paean to the lure of sailing, focusing on Stagg’s colourful personality, and his veteran ocean-racing crew, as they take on the Wellington to Kapiti Island and down to the Sounds race. Fortunately for the film they deliver on reputation. Dolphins, Strait squalls, streaking, ciggies, and some fierce 70s moustaches are all in a weekend’s sailing. Stagg would go on to head renowned Farr Yacht Design (now Stagg Yachts).

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Holmes - First Episode

Television, 1989 (News/Current Affairs)

The very first Holmes show. In this famous interview, Paul Holmes asks American yachtsman Dennis Conner to apologise for cheating in the America's Cup. Conner storms out, making headlines the next day and giving the new show a ratings boost. The NZ Herald described this interview as "an aggressive, overly-mannered encounter interview rather than a thoughtful interrogation, a ratings-generating event rather than a genuine, tenacious journalistic grilling." It was a style that made Holmes famous.

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Sir Peter Blake - The Boy From Bayswater

Television, 2003 (Sport, Documentary)

This 2003 TVNZ documentary looks at the life of New Zealand’s most celebrated sailor, Sir Peter Blake. The film ranges from Blake's Waitematā sailing childhood to Round the World racing; from leading Team New Zealand to double America’s Cup victory, to the setting up of Blakexpeditions. The documentary uses archive footage and interviews with crew, mates and family to eulogise the adventurer with the windswept blonde mane and moustache. It was made in the wake of Blake’s 2001 death, while on an Amazon expedition to raise environmental awareness.

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Loyal

Music Video, 1988 (Pop)

This is a cleverly-choreographed one shot video for the Kiwi classic written by Dobbyn when based in Sydney. (Even if it's debatable whether the moving house/moving on imagery actually suits the lyrics of the song.) Dobbyn's jersey and his video girl's entire get-up firmly date-stamp the romance and real estate story in the 80s, but the song has outlasted the knitwear: In 2001 APRA members voted it the third-best New Zealand song of the 20th Century. Loyal was later used by Team New Zealand as its campaign song for its 2002 defence of the America’s Cup.  

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Surf Sail

Short Film, 1978 (Sport, Documentary)

A 1978 documentary that follows the attempt by three young people to be the first windsurfers to cross Cook Strait. Directed and narrated by Sam Neill (soon to be famous as an actor) for the National Film Unit. The skeptical Cook Strait pilot John Cataldo asks them: "do you wanna have a crack?" "Yeah, bloody oath" one of the surfers replies. They face the Strait's infamous winds, tides, swells, sharks and exhaustion. Some stunning helicopter shots include a windsurfer clipping through whitecaps with a pod of dolphins in its wake.

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Fast Forward - New Boat, Sail of the Century

Television, 1986 (Documentary)

In this excerpt from TVNZ's 1980s science and technology series, reporter Jim Hopkins visits a West Auckland boatyard where one of the world's biggest single-masted yachts is being built. Construction of the multi-million dollar, 122 foot long Aquell (later Vainqueur), is state of the art for the times although decades of subsequent America's Cup boats have taken some of the lustre from revolutionary materials like Kevlar and carbon fibre. Then again, not every yacht comes complete with twin 350 horsepower diesel engines, two bedrooms and an onboard jacuzzi.